A day in the life of a frontline worker

Health

Whether it’s saving lives on the frontline or providing us with essential food, key workers are putting themselves at risk every day to help us through the coronavirus pandemic. Here we speak to some of our brave heroes…

Dr. Frankie Jackson-Spence, Frontline NHS doctor

My typical day before the corona crisis… Before the Coronavirus pandemic, I was working in general practice. My day would involve seeing patients face-to-face every 15 minutes. I noticed a significant change in the GP setting. We made a big shift to mainly e-consultations and video consultations to avoid seeing patients face-to-face unnecessarily. Later, I was re-deployed to work on the frontline in the emergency department of a busy London hospital which is a huge change. I am mainly seeing Covid patients as they present unwell to A+E.

My typical day now… I am working shifts in The Emergency Department in a busy London hospital. The shifts are quite varied but they are usually 1pm-11pm, weekends or night shifts. This is massively different from my GP job! I work within a team of doctors of different grades and am always supported by a consultant. A typical day would involve clerking in patients who attend ED or brought in by ambulance. I will take a history from them and find out why they’ve come to hospital, examine them and do some observations.

Photo: Dr. Frankie Jackson-Spence

Most of the patients I see now are suspected COVID patients and so my assessments largely entail seeing how much respiratory support they require. I will always discuss the patient with senior doctors and other teams such as the medical team and intensive care doctors to ensure the multidisciplinary team are involved in the patient’s care. Often, I order investigations for the patient including a chest x-ray and a tracing of their heart, called an ECG. I often am looking after patients for about two hours and then either refer to the medical team or discharge them home. Between each patient I try to take a quick break to use the bathroom and get a drink, as the PPE and face masks can be uncomfortable and make your mouth dry. I would then keep seeing patients until the end of my shift which lasts 10 hours.

How I’m keeping happy and healthy… In some ways, I feel grateful that I get to go to work each day. I work within a really great team who all support each other. We talk about the emotional challenges we face to help keep our mental wellbeing in check. On my days off I make sure to get my body moving, even if I don’t always feel like it! I’ve been doing a few runs, and trying to do my F45 workouts from home – my studio do live workouts three times a day from home (F45 Live) so I still feel connected with my gym family.

Living alone means I need to make sure I stay connected with my friends and family via video chat to stop myself feeling lonely. I also am using this time to make sure I get eight hours of sleep every night and doing organisational things around my home which helps keep me busy on my days off. I am also really enjoying putting my content out there on Instagram @drfrankiejs where I am trying to provide evidence-based information to the public and keep them informed of the ever-changing guidance.

Bianca, Frontline Supermarket Worker

My typical day before the corona crisis… Working as part of the leadership group in a supermarket is quite complex, you have loads of areas that you need to manage. For example, daily purchasing, recruitment, schedules, training, disciplinaries, food safety/health and safety audits and other operational tasks. There are always challenges such as missing deliveries, shortages in certain supplies, short-dated products, customer complaints that we need to deal with. On a normal day my team usually receives 8-16 pallets of grocery products and we always leave the store with nicely stocked up shelves.

My typical day now… When the outbreak started things got very hectic and it was impossible to keep up with our normal operations. At the beginning we had no restrictions on how many people we could have in the store, there were no such things like social distancing or limits on products. The first week we were just trying to fill the gaps on the shelves like maniacs, sometimes not even considering if that is the right place or not for a particular product. Whatever we put on the shelf it was gone in a short period of time anyway and people did not even bother to ask for the price anymore. It seemed everyone switched to survival mode and took whatever was available.

Due to demand, we had to significantly increase our orders and we basically doubled (or even more) what we usually receive a day. There were long queues at the checkouts, delivery services were overwhelmed and our phones were constantly ringing. Obviously the whole store had to implement new cleaning procedures, such as hourly disinfecting frequently used/touched tools, equipments and areas.

(Stock image)

Now it’s calmer. Ever since the lockdown started, we have a more balanced daily routine. Even if there is a massive queue outside waiting to get into the store, it feels calmer inside. We have a limit on how many people can be in the building at a time, we allow one person per household to do their shopping and we have very clear signage to help social distancing and even arrows on the floor to help manage the customer flow. We also have team members whose task is to remind customers to practice social distancing. Our daily deliveries got back to normal and we are able to continue to work as we could before.

The main challenge now is frustrated customers. We have seen an increase in complaints due to the restrictions that were set for everyone’s safety, but I think some people are just too frustrated and had enough of strict rules and they find us easy targets to let it all out.

How I’m keeping happy and healthy… At the beginning it was very challenging and stressful, working extra days and never ending shifts, there was literally no time to look after ourselves properly. However, that’s not the case anymore. We are allowed to work 40 hours in four days that really makes a difference. That extra day off really helps to recharge and switch off.

For everyone’s mental and physical wellbeing and just to try to focus on something different, we have started to do a 30-day yoga challenge among us (strictly doing it at home not together!). I have also been taking immune-supporting supplements and do meditation with my boyfriend daily. Virtual quizzes with our friends are really fun and I’ve also started to bake more, including my mum’s favourite recipes.

Anonymous, BA cabin crew Frontline worker who is working on rescue flights for stranded British nationals

My typical day before the corona crisis… I would be off to one of your favourite destinations, the Bahamas for instance. I would have an email already to know what class of cabin I’ll be working onboard for that day. Our flights are generally always full and depending on the flight we would do a bar round, a full meal, a snack and another meal before landing. Then we would have a layover of 1-3 days normally and return back to base with days off.

(Stock image)

My typical day now… Not knowing where we are going until the last minute, normally 6pm the night before, and having no idea how many passengers we will have or what cabin we will be working in. Making sure that we have masks not only on board but on the way to work. Onboard we are only giving a sealed bag with a sandwich, chocolate bar and bottles of water (this is the same for First class as well) and we are not serving any alcohol.

Even though I know it’s a higher risk going to work than staying at home but you could just as easily catch it at the supermarket and I’m helping people get home, so I actually look forward to a break in my isolation week to go to work. It’s a strange time and my last two flights we only had 25 passengers each way. It is so sad flights are that empty but hopefully in the near future life can go back to normal and I will never moan about having a full cabin again.

How I’m keeping happy and healthy… By going for a run every day.

Main photo: Dr. Frankie Jackson-Spence

By Sam

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Main image – Ellie Jade Photography

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